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Ohio State of mind

Buckeyes begin as top dog, Notre Dame sits in second

Posted: Tuesday August 29, 2006 12:24PM; Updated: Tuesday August 29, 2006 8:01PM
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Here they are, folks, the same rankings I turned in as my preseason AP ballot a few weeks ago. I'm not exactly brimming with confidence about the order of the top five nor the bottom 10, so this year, even more than in the past, I expect to do some major reshuffling during the first few weeks of the season.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
Rank LW Team
1 --
Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2 in 2005)
QB Troy Smith may be the cover boy and WR Ted Ginn Jr. his flashy compadre, but center Doug Datish recently told me, "Don't sleep on [Antonio] Pittman, dude." Expect OSU coaches to ride their 1,300-yard rusher early until they feel confident enough with the defense to be more bold offensively.
First game: Saturday vs. Northern Illinois.
2 -- All eyes will be on the wideouts during Saturday night's ND-Georgia Tech game. Not only will two preseason All-Americas (Jeff Samardzija and Calvin Johnson) be on display, but also Irish senior Rhema McKnight returns after missing last season. Will he fill the void left by 1,149-yard receiver Maurice Stovall?
First game: Saturday at Georgia Tech.
3 -- Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the two quarterbacks who are being asked to replace a college football legend and lead the Longhorns to another national championship. I'm not trying to be mean, but I think we should start soliciting nicknames. My suggestion: "Opie Squared."
First game: Saturday vs. North Texas.
4 -- With Chauncey Washington still recovering from a hamstring injury, it's entirely possible that the Trojans will utilize an all-true-freshman backfield when it opens against Arkansas on Saturday. The pecking order among the four frosh is unclear, though C.J. Gable seems to have the inside track on starting.
First game: Saturday vs. Arkansas.
5 -- If there has been a consistent theme throughout Tommy Tuberville's seven seasons on the Plains, it's that the Tigers seem to do better the lower they're ranked in the preseason and flop when the expectations are high. To dodge that trend this year, QB Brandon Cox will need to assert himself early on.
First game: Saturday vs. Washington State.
6 -- Last weekend, ESPN Classic re-aired the best games of last season, including the Mountaineers' dramatic comeback against Louisville, and I was reminded while watching it, holy crap, Pat White is good. If White improves as a passer, he has the potential to be a Vince Young-caliber difference-maker.
First game: Saturday vs. Marshall.
7 -- Call it a hunch, a premonition, or perhaps an informed opinion, but I'm willing to bet good money that Chris Leak is going to have a huge senior season. No, he won't be running the ball much (Tim Tebow can come in and do that), but I could easily see him passing for 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns.
First game: Saturday vs. Southern Miss.
8 -- Pundits love the Bears far more than the general public. Cal may be a trendy top 10 pick among analysts -- Lee Corso even has them winning the national title -- but the Bears were only 15th in USA Today's preseason fan poll and are underdogs at Tennessee, which is coming off a 5-6 season.
First game: Saturday at Tennessee.
9 -- My knee-jerk reaction following Rhett Bomar's dismissal was to send the Sooners plummeting into the teens. But after visiting OU's camp a couple of weeks ago, I came to realize that the Sooners are still loaded at nearly every other position and may actually be more versatile offensively with mobile QB Paul Thompson.
First game: Saturday vs. UAB.
10 -- What kind of season do the Wolverines need to get the critics off Lloyd Carr's back? Probably something pretty spectacular, considering back-to-back Rose Bowls in 2003 and '04 already seem to be forgotten. Michigan fans are hungry for a national title, and this year's team has the pieces to deliver it.
First game: Saturday vs. Vanderbilt.

Read on for teams 11-20 ...